In 1960, on this day President John F. Kennedy's administration was almost ended before it could begin as a mentally disturbed ex-postal worker named Richard Pavlick tried to kill the President-elect with a suicide bomb attack on Kennedy's Palm Beach vacation house.
A Shock To The System Part 1 by Chris OakleyAn alert Secret Service agent saved the President-elect's life by shooting out the front tires of Pavlick's car just as Pavlick was starting his attack; the former postman lost control of his vehicle and inadvertantly set off his bomb prematurely, vaporizing himself in the explosion. Kennedy survived the blast shaken but unhurt; the Secret Service agent was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital and released that evening.
Realizing America could have been thrust into political crisis if Pavlick's assassination plot had succeeded, Kennedy met with Vice President-elect Lyndon Johnson the next day to begin brainstorming ideas on how to avert such a grim scenario in the future. The result of their discussions was the 1961 Presidential Security and Emergency Succession Act, which would be enacted and signed into law during Kennedy's first 100 days in office. In addition to further clarifying existing procedures for choosing a successor to the President in the event of an untimely death, the act created new safeguards to fill unexpected vacancies if either the President-elect or Vice President-elect died before their election could be certified by the Electoral College; last but not least, the act increased Secret Service protection for Presidents and presidential candidates.
In 1961, on this day the Presidential Emergency Succession Act was signed into law.
A Shock To The System Part 2 by Chris OakleyThe PESA had passed both houses of Congress with little debate, and most of that debate had centered on the issue for how the federal government would fund the expanded security appartus the new law would put in place; the debate was settled when Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon (pictured) released several million dollars in emergency funds to cover the first year of expanded protections for the President and future presidential candidates.
After 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security would take over much of the responsibility for implementing the provisions of the PESA; following the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in May of 2011 DHS agents would work with the Secret Service to secure the White House and the first family against possible retaliatory attacks by al-Qaeda sympathizers.
This article is part of the A Shock to the System thread.
In 1963, the Presidential Emergency Succession Act was invoked for the first time when President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas (the suspected assassin, ex-Marine turned Communist Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself gunned down in a movie theater while trying to elude police).
A Shock To The System Part 3Secret Service agents on the ground in the Dallas area at the time JFK was shot immediately whisked the First Lady and her family back to Washington while additional teams of agents were helicoptered in from Fort Worth to guard Kennedy's vice-president and successor Lyndon Johnson as he took the oath of office to become the 36th President of the United States; the new chief executive wasted no time ordering a full-scale investigation to determine how someone could have gotten close enough to shoot and kill Kennedy; within less than six weeks after taking office Johnson signed an executive order mandating tougher training for all future incoming Secret Service personnel.
By 1965 President Johnson had successfully lobbied Congress for a 50 percent increase in funding for all PESA-related operations by the Justice and Treasury Departments.